Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Running Gadgetry - GPS Watches

One of the best things about running is the all the cool gear. GPS watches, heart rate monitors, foot pods, shoes, shirts, shorts, socks, hats, hydration, music players... oh, and nipple protection. Can't forget the nipple protection. Today, though, I'll focus on GPS watches. If you want really in depth information on what's out there, there's no better place than DC Rainmaker. That guy does a tremendous job reviewing gear; far better than what I'll do here, but I still think I have a few things to add from my experiences.

At thins point, I've tried three different GPS watches: Forerunner 610, Forerunner 310xt, and the fenix 2. The fenix was my first device as I had done a lot of research and decided to get what was supposedly the best of the best of the current generation of GPS watches. So I bit the bullet and paid the exorbitant price for that device. As it turns out, maybe not the best idea. If you are a triathlete then I think that yes, this might still be the right watch for you, and maybe even a hiker (as that is one of it's main uses) but for running anywhere that might have a slightly degraded GPS signal like wooded trails or near tall builds, the current generation of Garmin devices appear to have some problems. You can check the forums for the Fenix 2, Forerunner 220 and Forerunner 620 to see what I mean. For once, newer might not be better, at least in some situations.

So after a little disappointment with the fenix 2 I picked up a refurb Forerunner 610 on ebay. The fenix was better in every conceivable way, expect GPS accuracy. and since my needs were pretty simple (I'm not training for swimming or biking and hiking isn't a big priority), the 610 met most of my needs.

So why did I just pick up a 310xt? It uses the same GPS unit that the 610 does. It has a significantly larger screen but weighs almost exactly the same as the 610. Unlike the 610, you can upload pre-plotted courses to it and and then follow that course via a map on the device. This is useful for my training as the mileage varies a lot (an increases almost every week) so the running routs I need to take change constantly. Being able to pre-plan them and then follow along, while not critical, is pretty helpful. I've only used it a few time and I've already found an issue that might negate all of those advantages (I have a email out to Garmin support to see if I can solve this; I'll report back in a later post), but as long as I can overcome that one issue, I think I do like it just a tad better than the 610.

Soon I'll do a detailed comparison of the three watches.